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The International Relations of Middle-earth

Learning from The Lord of the Rings

Abigail E. Ruane

Publication Year: 2012

Based on their successful undergraduate course at the University of Southern California, Abigail E. Ruane and Patrick James provide an introduction to International Relations using J. R. R. Tolkien's fantastically popular trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Because Tolkien's major themes---such as good versus evil and human agency versus determinism---are perennially relevant to International Relations, The Lord of the Rings is well suited for application to the study of politics in our own world. This innovative combination of social science and humanities approaches to illustrate key concepts engages students and stimulates critical thinking in new and exciting ways.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

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pp. v-vi

Our collaboration has been characterized by the best kind of egalitarianism and professional conduct. Each of us has contributed equally to this project. We are grateful to each other for making the journey of developing this book just as refreshing as the subject matter. Furthermore, we are encouraged about the outlook for engagement between scholars...


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p. vii

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Introduction: Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings, and International Relations

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pp. 1-13

After disputed Iranian elections in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory over his rival, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Iranian government central television put a marathon showing of The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) on Channel Two to help keep the peace. The government normally treated its citizens to just a couple of Western ‹lms per week. ...

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1. Order, Justice, and Middle-earth

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pp. 14-31

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is an epic tale that chronicles the quest of Frodo Baggins, along with both expected and unexpected allies, to destroy the Ring of Power and save Middle-earth from evil Sauron. This chapter explores how Tolkien addresses ideas of Order and Justice. We use a technique drawn from literary analysis, tracing a theme (of Order and Justice)...

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2. Thinking about International Relations and Middle-earth

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pp. 32-42

When the Fellowship left Lothlórien, Lady Galadriel gave each of its members a gift to aid them along a road fraught with danger. To Frodo she gave a phial that contained the rare light of Eärendil, most precious among the Elves. This light aided him when he confronted the gigantic spider, Shelob, in her dark and frightening cave. While hardly frightening...

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3. Middle-earth and Three Great Debates in International Relations

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pp. 43-75

This chapter uses LOTR characters to illustrate ideal typical perspectives of major approaches within the three “Great Debates” of twentieth-century IR, all of which in›uence discussion today. It is important to note here that, although in this book we use the giant spider Shelob to illustrate one “prowoman” approach and the Orcs to illustrate one realist approach, feminists are not blood-sucking monsters, and realists are not...

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4. Middle-earth, Levels of Analysis, and War

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pp. 76-112

When Henry Allingham died on 19 July 2009, at the age of 113, the world lost its oldest man. In the context of this volume’s focus on IR, we also lost one of just three known surviving British veterans of World War I. Along with Allingham and millions of others, Tolkien experienced the horrors of trench warfare: artillery barrages, machine-gun ‹re, poison...

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5. Middle-earth and Feminist Theory

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pp. 113-138

In The Things They Carried (1990), Tim O’Brien draws on his experience as a veteran in the American war in Vietnam to tell what people often interpret as “war stories.” But he argues that they are not war stories and suggests that people who interpret them that way simply are not “listening” (85). Instead, he describes what a “true” war story is about for him. ...

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6. Middle-earth and Feminist Analysis of Conflict

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pp. 139-162

Gandalf points out in the epigraph that in Middle-earth Hobbits have a huge impact on political affairs, despite their small stature. This ranges from Frodo, the Ring Bearer, who is critical to the outcome of the quest; to Sam, who supports him from the very beginning to the very end; to Merry and Pippin, who stimulate an uprising of the Ents that plays a key...

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7. Middle-earth as a Source of Inspiration and Enrichment

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pp. 163-191

We now move from using LOTR to illustrate existing IR discussions to using it as a mirror to challenge existing perspectives and raise new and interesting questions. Chapter 1 relied on the literary technique of following a theme to gain insight into the implications for Order and Justice of the quest to destroy the Ring. The present chapter uses two other literary...

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Conclusion: International Relations and Our Many Worlds

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pp. 192-203

When Iranian government central television put on a marathon of The Lord of the Rings after disputed elections in June 2009, the intention was to quell riots—to reinstitute a more stable social Order. What this plan failed to recognize is that because LOTR highlights issues of both Order and Justice within an imagination-grabbing and fantastical epic context...

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Appendix A: The War of the Ring Up to Its Climax

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pp. 205-213

This narrative combines the book and movie versions of LOTR, the story of the War of the Ring, which concludes the Third Age of Middle-earth. Its predecessor, The Hobbit (Tolkien 1996), does contain what later turns out to be a crucial part of the story, and that is recounted brie›y here. Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit who lives in the Shire (a quiet place, as described...

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Appendix B: How the Story Ends

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pp. 214-215

Frodo and Sam reach the opening of Mount Doom. They enter, but at the Crack of Doom, Frodo is unable to ful‹ll his mission, ‹nally overtaken by the evil power of the Ring. He decides instead to claim the Ring for himself and puts it on. At that moment he is attacked by Gollum, who knocks Sam unconscious and then bites off Frodo’s ‹nger and takes the...


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pp. 217-228


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pp. 229-243

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028597
E-ISBN-10: 0472028596
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472051823
Print-ISBN-10: 0472071823

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 7 figures, 7 tables
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 794003988
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The International Relations of Middle-earth

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Subject Headings

  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (John Ronald Reuel), 1892-1973. Lord of the rings.
  • Feminist theory.
  • Mill, John Stuart, ‡d 1806-1873.
  • Middle Earth (Imaginary place).
  • International relations in literature.
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